We know from the letters of thanks we receive how big a difference we make to the people we support. Whether it's short-term help to enable someone to get back on their feet after a crisis, or a long-term commitment to pay a retired or disabled person a regular grant, we know how grateful people are.
Peter Holliday, a 53-year-old self-employed agricultural contractor from Silloth in Cumbria, was diagnosed with throat cancer in February 2015. His first thoughts were not about his illness or his long-term future. It was how would he and wife Ali pay the bills while he was undergoing surgery and radiotherapy? Peter said: “The disease itself didn’t really faze me, although it upset everyone around me. It was the financial side of things that really bothered me.”
R.A.B.I and Macmillan Cancer Support helped him throughout his treatment – with R.A.B.I clearing some domestic bills and covering the costs of hospital travel. Peter said: “You’ve no idea how much it meant to me to see a cheque arrive through the door, it was such a weight off my mind. All I could see was a heap of bills on the table. I honestly thought ‘this is the end of the business that I’ve spent 25 years building’.”
“I really don’t know what we would have done without R.A.B.I and Macmillan,” he added. “It’s not just about the money. Every claim form is like a book so to have someone who knows what they are doing take care of all that stuff was such a huge relief.”
Farming was all Anthony ever knew as a child. His grandfather farmed 50 acres, his dad was a farm worker and his mother used to milk 250 cows every day.
By the age of 16, Anthony was a herdsman himself, planning his future. A year later, however, life was very different. Struck down by muscular dystrophy, a serious muscle-wasting disease, Anthony found himself in a wheelchair with all of his plans on hold for good. Today, at 44, Anthony lives in a specially adapted bungalow and is unable to use his arms or legs.
He said: “As a kid I was always riding around on tractors. I was as strong as an ox when I got my first job but within nine months I had to quit because it got to the point where I couldn’t do anything.”
R.A.B.I helped Anthony by providing him a special bed, so he could turn himself during the night when he became uncomfortable, rather than rely on his live-in carer. We also purchased Anthony a special seat and hoist for his van and an all-terrain ‘Boma’ wheelchair, giving him the freedom to go out into the countryside on his own.
Anthony said: “I really can’t thank R.A.B.I enough for what they’ve done for me, they’ve been brilliant.”
Greg is a self-employed farm worker who has a hereditary kidney disease. He explained: “It only began to affect my work in recent years. I got terribly tired and would fall asleep as soon as I got in from work. There is no cure and doctors began to speak about a transplant about five or six years ago.”
His wife Carol offered to be a donor and the couple had two years of tests and preparation before the transplant to reduce the risk of rejection. The couple knew they would both be off work and without an income at the same time but thankfully they heard about R.A.B.I and we helped them apply for the state benefits they were entitled to and also helped with grants for household bills.
Carol said: “Without R.A.B.I we’d have gone into debt, from which we’d have struggled to recover. R.A.B.I gave us a cushion to support us through the operations. It wasn’t just the offer of financial help but also the help with claiming benefits and filling in forms.”
Greg added: “It’s hard to ask for help – pride gets in the way and farmers are a proud bunch. But I’d say to anyone in the same situation just ask. With R.A.B.I’s help we’re now back on our feet”.
Keith started farming when he left school and managed a livestock farm in Wales, but became unable to manage.
“I didn’t have any energy,” he explained. “As soon as I’d finished work I’d be in bed. The doctor couldn’t find anything specific, but eventually I saw a specialist who was 99% sure I had organophosphate poisoning and ME. That made sense because there used to be lots of chemicals used in farms, from sheep dips to aphid sprays, and people didn’t think about safety like today. The diagnosis was that it would get worse, which it did, and eventually I had to give up work.”
Keith and his wife, Jill, moved to a small cottage to reduce costs. Then someone got in touch with R.A.B.I on their behalf. “It was such a relief,” said Keith. “R.A.B.I paid our electricity and other big bills and said that if there was anything else we needed, all we had to do was ring to discuss it. Later I became a full beneficiary and began to receive a regular grant.”
Now Jill and Keith are members of their local R.A.B.I committee and help to raise funds. “We try to give something back to help people as we’ve been helped,” said Keith. “Farmers are not the best people to ask for help. But I’d advise anyone if they get into financial trouble to just pick up the phone and call R.A.B.I”.
Trouble comes out of the blue and you don’t know where to turn - that was Jacqueline’s experience when her youngest child Pippa developed a life-limiting, disabling illness. Jacqueline explained: “Doctors said it was a miracle that she lived until she was 28. She was such a lovely person and as her body got weaker, her spirit became stronger.”
Jacqueline cared for Pippa on her own, so finances were tight. As a treat she had booked a holiday at a riding centre for disabled people, but faced having to cancel it when her washing machine and freezer broke and needed to be replaced at the same time.
She explained: “I didn’t know how to tell Pippa we couldn’t go. I’d always been told that if you couldn’t afford something you had to do without, but this was so special for Pippa. The Citizens Advice Bureau recommended that I contact R.A.B.I and getting in touch was the start of a wonderful friendship. We realised we weren’t alone anymore.”
R.A.B.I helped to pay for the holiday and also helped with the cost of a wheelchair for Pippa, and later, when Jacqueline became a beneficiary in her own right, a mobility scooter for her. “It’s not just the money. It’s knowing that someone cares – who you can talk to. I feel very well looked after. R.A.B.I has taken so much pressure off me. I’m so grateful,” she said.
David said: “You’ve got nothing to your name as a tenant farmer. The first two to three years were really difficult. You can do all the budgets, but if something goes wrong and you’ve only got half a crop, you’ve only got half a crop to sell. The biggest difficulty is cash flow. Sometimes you don’t know how you’re going to get through the next six months.”
Then David heard about R.A.B.I’s training grants. He explained: “I’d thought about arboriculture, but all my money was invested in crop growing. R.A.B.I funded me in tree climbing safety, felling, aerial maintenance and chainsaw management, and since then we’ve expanded the business to do tree surgery work and woodland maintenance.
“I’ve taken on new people and currently have five employees, with work all year round. It’s supplemented the farm income, got the farm back on its feet and kept it going.
“Sometimes all you need is a little help to get on the ladder and point you in the right direction. Without R.A.B.I funding in the initial stages, I wouldn’t be where I am today”